Businesses awarded at Gazette banquet

Keynote Robynn Shrader highlights benefits of B Corp certification

Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations at the University of Iowa, speaks after accepting the overall Business Excellence Award on behalf of the university at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations at the University of Iowa, speaks after accepting the overall Business Excellence Award on behalf of the university at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Companies that want to attract customers and recruit top talent need to pay attention to more than sales and marketing — they need to make a commitment to social and environmental issues as well.

That’s according to Robynn Shrader, CEO of the National Co+op Grocers, keynote speaker of The Gazette’s third-annual Business Excellence Awards and proponent of certified B Corps.

Shrader spoke to more than 250 attendees Thursday evening at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids during the event, which brought together business leaders and city officials to recognize accomplishments in the Corridor.

National Co+op Grocers is an umbrella organization that represents 147 retail food coops in 38 states that do more than $2.3 billion in sales annually.

Certified B corps are to a business what fair trade is to coffee or LEED certification is to a building, Shrader explained. B Corp certification brings a company’s social and environmental performance to light and holds that company accountable.

More than 2,300 businesses in 50 countries across 130 industries have achieved this designation, Shrader said, including big names such as Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s and Kickstarter.

National Co+op Grocers became a certified B Corp in 2012 and since has made considerable strides — planting 1.4 million trees to offset carbon emissions made by the company, increasing the diversity of its board and providing a “living wage” to all its employees.


This has helped the company achieve “world status,” meaning it’s in the top 200 certified B Corps in the world. But getting there wasn’t easy, Shrader added — it takes a lot of hard work to not only get a passing score but to maintain it and increase it.

“We had a rude awakening,” Shrader said, explaining there was lots of education involved to get employees to see the value of the certification. “It helps you not only improve your business, but improve the story you tell the world.”

During the awards presentations, Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, received The Gazette’s first-ever Trailblazer of the Year award, while Nate Klein, interim dean of students at Mount Mercy University, was named the Young Professional for 2017.

The University of Iowa took home the top award this year — The Gazette’s overall Business Excellence Award — for its work in sustainability, for its numerous recent and current major construction projects and for continuing to serve as a significant economic engine in the Corridor. In the past two years, UI has completed a number of large-scale building projects, including the $360 million Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall, the Visual Arts Building, the $189 million Voxman Music Building and the $113 million Hancher Auditorium.

“The last 10 years has been a remarkable trial for many of us,” said Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations at the UI, when accepting the award for the university. “But we’ve never been better.”

In the midst of all the construction, the UI also is working to be more sustainable and anticipates it will run on no coal by 2025.

“We’re at lower energy now than we were 10 years ago,” he said. “Many of us thought it couldn’t happen, but I’m proud of the work we’re doing in a challenging time for higher education.”

2017 Gazette Business Excellence Award winners, by category, were:

The Gazette Business Excellence Award

University of Iowa

Young professional

Nate Klein

Trail blazer

Gail Naughton


Excellence Award — Heery International

Achievement Award — One Place at Riverfront Crossings

Commercial real estate

Excellence Award — Coe College, Mount Mercy University and the Uptown District

Achievement Award — Ashton Hill Farm

Corporate citizenship

Excellence Award — ESCO Group

Achievement Award — Hy-Vee


Excellence Award — Kids on Course

Achievement Award — Liberty High School, in the Iowa City Community School District


Excellence Award — Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust

Achievement Award — University of Iowa Community Credit Union

Food and drink

Excellence Award — Big Grove Brewery

Achievement Award — Rapid Creek Cidery

Food processing

Excellence Award — Quaker Oats

Health care

Excellence Award — Eastern Iowa Health Center

Achievement Award — Tanager Place

Historic renovations

Excellence Award — United Fire Group

Achievement Award — Backpocket Brewing Company


Excellence Award — Signal Center for Health Innovation

Achievement Award — Revival Theatre Company

Made in the Corridor

Excellence Award — Highway Equipment

Achievement Award — Legacy Manufacturing


Excellence Award — Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery

Achievement Award — General Mills


Excellence Award — The Hook

Achievement Award — Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, Cedar Rapids Public Library


Excellence Award — Catherine McAuley Center

Achievement Award — Cedar Rapids Follies

Public-private partnerships

Excellence Award — city of Cedar Rapids

Also awarded for their participation in September 2016 flood efforts:

Advanced Traffic Control

Beeline Products

Borst Brothers Construction

BWC Excavating

Dave Schmitt Construction

Ken-Way Trucking

Maxwell Construction

Peterson Contractors

Pirc-Tobin Construction

Rathje Construction

Ricklefs Excavating

Roto-Rooter Sewer Drain Service

Schrader Excavating and Grading

Anderson-Bogert Engineering/Surveyors

Foth Infrastructure and Environment

HDR Engineering

HR Green

Stanley Consultants

County Materials

Crawford Quarry


Forterra Concrete Products

Martin Marietta Materials

Wendling Quarries

Residential real estate

Excellence Award — Hobart Historic Restoration

Achievement Award — Affordable Housing Network


Excellence Award — Alliant Energy

Achievement Award — HR Green


Excellence Award — Rockwell Collins

Achievement Award — Pro Circular, L8NT Wireless (tie)



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